While we were in Independencia, we visited Yataity, a small town famous – famous may be the wrong word, but at least known for – its handcrafted embroidery. Yataity was beautiful, and muy tranquilo. We acquired a few things and now eat dinner off embroidered linen in the casa…
Next stop was Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. We never really connected with Asuncion: I had hurt my knee which limited how much walking we could do, and it was really hot, 35C, 95F, which limited how much walking we wanted to do. My strongest memory of Asuncion is camping in the middle of the Zoo / Botanical Gardens, and hearing the roar of a tiger as you go to sleep. (No Karen, the tiger was not running loose…).
From Asuncion, we were headed for Bolivia, with stops in Filadelfia, and the Enciso National Park.
Filadelfia lies in the middle of the Paraguay Chaco, one harsh, harsh place; known as the Green Hell. The temperature as we drove in to Filadelfia was 41C, 106F. And summer hasn’t really started yet. And no, it’s not a dry heat.
(We have since left the hotel and are once again camping. As I write this, Karen is walking around trying to figure out how she can strap a block of ice to her head to cool down. And she’s now suspicious of the camper design: why is it that the active fan in our bedroom is on my side of the bed?)
The central Chaco, where Filadelfia lies, was founded in 1930 by a few different groups of Mennonites, starting with a group that came from Canada, and before Canada, Russia. The Mennonites have done an absolutely incredible job of creating a thriving community in the midst of an extremely harsh ecosystem, in the middle of nowhere – the first real road in, dirt of course, was built in 1961.
While we had read the blurb in the Lonely Planet book about the Mennonites, we knew very little about their history, and hadn’t intended our stop in Filadelfia as a Mennonite stop; it was more a camping spot on the way to Bolivia.
But, Gati Harder and Patrick Friesen, were kind enough to spend quality time with us and teach us about the Mennonite history in the Chaco, and about the community they have created. Absolutely fascinating. I think it’s rare to run across, and learn about, a unique and important piece of history that is so close in time, and that is still developing.
The Chaco and the Mennonites deserve a better post than this, but I’m sorry, it’s just too hot…